Kenya's deputy prime minister testified at an International Criminal Court preliminary hearing Thursday to defend himself against charges of fomenting violence after his country's disputed 2007 presidential election.
Uhuru Kenyatta's testimony is crucial to his attempt to have crimes against humanity charges _ including murder and rape _ dismissed before they go to trial.
Kenyatta_ the son of Kenya's founding president, Jomo Kenyatta _ denied allegations that he met with members of a criminal gang called the Mungiki before and after the 2007 election to discuss attacks on supporters of presidential candidate Raila Odinga, who is now prime minister.
Under cross-examination by Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Kenyatta said he considered Odinga "politically responsible" for some of the postelection violence because of "inflammatory remarks" that whipped up anger among his supporters and for failing to rein them in when violence started. Odinga has not been charged with any crimes by ICC prosecutors.
Kenyatta is seen by many as a possible successor to President Mwai Kibaki, when Kibaki's term ends next year. Kenyatta's defense lawyers have accused key prosecution witnesses of concocting false evidence and dismissed other prosecution evidence as "gossip and rumor." They are urging judges to drop the case.
Kenyatta is charged along with two other prominent Kenyans with organizing a campaign of murder, rape and persecution against supporters of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement. Three other senior Kenyan leaders also are accused in a separate case of masterminding similar crimes against Kibaki supporters.
Prosecutors say the explosion of violence in late 2007 and early 2008 left more than 1,000 people dead and forced 600,000 from their homes.
The hearing in The Hague is aimed at establishing if the evidence is strong enough to merit sending the suspects to trial.
Kenyatta denied having met Mungiki members at a shopping mall called the Yaya Centre in Nairobi before the election in 2007, as one prosecution witness claims.
"Your honors, that event never happened," he told judges.
He said he would never hold any kind of meeting at the center. The only time he had been there was with his children and wife, he added. "That is where she does her shopping," he said.
Kenyatta also denied claims that he was a member of the Mungiki gang.
"I have never been a member of Mungiki," he told the judges.